The Work of a Woman is to give Birth to Children: Cultural Constructions of Infertility in Nigeria

Ritgak A. Dimka, Simon L. Dein


Infertility is a condition loaded with meaning spanning across biomedical, psychological, social, economic, cultural and religious spheres. Given its disruptive power over women’s lives, it provides a unique lens through which issues of kinship, gender, sexuality, cosmology and religion can be examined. The paper presents the results of an ethnographic study of infertility in Central Nigeria. Explanatory models of infertility were variegated, encompassing biomedical, folk and religious elements. Like other ethnographic studies of help seeking for infertility in Nigeria, among this group resort was made to biomedical treatments, traditional healers and religious healing with no one system being hegemonic. The findings of this study accord with studies of infertility in other cultural groups indicating the disruptive influence of missing motherhood (Afr J Reprod Health 2013; 17[2]: 102-117.


La stérilité est une condition chargée de sens enjambant les biomédicaux, psychologiques, social, économique, culturel et religieux. Compte tenu de son pouvoir perturbateur sur la vie des femmes, il offre une perspective unique par laquelle les questions de la parenté, du sexe, de la sexualité, de la cosmologie et de la religion peuvent être examinées. L’article présente les résultats d'une étude ethnographique de l'infertilité dans le centre du Nigeria. Les modèles explicatifs de la stérilité ont varié, englobant les éléments  biomédicaux,  folkloriques et  religieux.  Tout comme d'autres études ethnographiques de recherche d'aide pour la stérilité au Nigeria, au sein de ce groupe  on a eu recours aux traitements biomédicaux, aux guérisons traditionnels et religieux, aucun système n’étant  hégémonique. Les résultats de cette étude avec  s’accordent  avec des études sur la stérilité chez les autres groupes culturels indiquant l'influence perturbatrice du manque de maternité. (Afr J Reprod Health 2013; 17[2]: 

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